Implantable Telescope

Emerging Technology Watch: Implantable Telescope for the Eye

Renee Hopkins
Recently  MIT Technology Review reported that an advisory panel for the FDA has recommended the approval of a new implantable telescope for the eye that could help with vision loss from macular degeneration, an age-related eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and older, affecting more than 10 million Americans.
The new implant, developed by start-up VisionCare Technology of Saratoga, CA, consists of two lenses within a small glass tube. Once implanted inside the eye, it works like a fixed telephoto lens, acting in conjunction with the cornea to project a magnified image of whatever the wearer is looking at over a large part of the retina. Because only the central parts of the retina are damaged in the disease, magnifying the image on the eye allows the retinal cells outside the macula to detect the object and send that information to the brain.
The device is implanted in only one eye -- patients use this eye for detailed vision and the untreated eye for peripheral vision. That takes some getting used to, says Eli Peli, a scientist at The Schepens Eye Research Institute, who has consulted for VisionCare. "Instead of using two parts of the same eye, they must switch between two eyes; if they see someone coming but can't tell who it is, they need to switch to other eye".